Dreaming of Easter was composed originally for the University of Aberdeen Chamber Orchestra who gave its first performance, under Roger B. Williams, on Remembrance Sunday, 2007. The present score is a substantial revision re-composed for full orchestra. It was given its first performance on 29th January 2010 in the BBC Hoddinott Hall, Wales Millennium Centre, by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Jac van Steen.
The title is a phrase drawn from Sabine Baring-Gould’s paraphrase translation of a Basque Christmas Carol, Sing Lullaby. Baring-Gould (1834–1924), a scholar, clergyman, poet, translator, linguist and polymath, was the inspiration for George Bernard Shaw’s character, Professor Higgins, in Pygmalion.
I was drawn, initially, by the poignant nature of the words, which picture the Child dreaming, not to be woken since ‘soon will come sorrow with the morning’ – a thought which surely transcends religious and ideological boundaries.
The musical material derives from transformations of the carol melody, which only appears with any degree of literalness in a dream-like passage close to the beginning and vanishes – though, in some sense, its dna is present in every bar. The piece is through-composed and consists of slow – at times, elegiac – music flanking fast central episodes. Two chords, which seem to signify a kind of question at the very beginning, return twice, later in the work.